Studying a chemistry course is a great choice for your career. Lots of industries, particularly in the manufacturing and energy sectors, are searching for chemistry graduates and the current climate change crisis has only strengthened the demand for qualified chemists in all fields.
The minimum prerequisite for beginning a career in the chemistry industry is a Bachelor of Science degree which usually takes a duration of three years full time to complete in Australia. Almost all major universities offer this qualification.
The top universities to study science are the University of Melbourne, Monash University, the University of Queensland, and Australian National University. There are a range of professions you can enter into as a chemistry graduate. But first, let’s look at what’s involved in studying a chemistry course.
What's the Curriculum in a Chemistry Course?
The admission process to study chemistry at university can be intimidating for students but you should still apply! And if your application is accepted that means that all the exam preparation and the extra tuition as a student during high school has paid off.
When you first start your general chemistry education, your curriculum will likely consist of core modules which function as an introduction to the subject, like learning the difference between organic and inorganic chemistry, the physical forces and bonds that rule all existing matter, and how scientists can prognosticate an element’s response depending on its atomic constitution.
As a chemistry student, you will be introduced to concepts like quantum mechanics, which describes the behaviour of molecules across the universe. You will have to learn and understand such concepts. Some courses might also involve learning background information in relation to the history and philosophy of science.
Chemistry is an extremely practical degree, with a vast amount of time spent in laboratories, conducting carefully planned experiments using complex techniques.
As you progress further through your chemistry studies, you will likely have to perform open-ended experiments where you will apply your knowledge and utilise different laboratory methods, techniques, and skills to solve chemistry problems that your teachers have requested.
To achieve this, students will have to learn and perfect a wide variety of analytical techniques ranging from spectroscopy (the analysis of the interaction between matter and electromagnetic radiation, most often light) to chromatography (the separation of chemical compounds based on their physical proprieties).
As you advance in your education - depending on your interests and the prospective career you're seeking - you could choose to follow elective courses or focus your studies on a specialised discipline.
Specialisations that students could explore include chemical engineering, pharmacology, nanotechnology, electrochemistry, molecular biochemistry, pharmaceutical chemistry, biomedical engineering, or environmental chemistry.
Some undergraduate courses might necessitate the completion of an internship - which may include a research project - usually for a duration of one semester.
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Become An Environmentalist and Prevent Climate Change
The main responsibility of an environmental chemist is to observe what is in the air, water, and soil to analyse how chemicals enter the environment, what impact this contamination may have, and how human activities effect the planet.
You will track the source and scope of air, water or soil or pollution and contamination, particularly chemical compounds that may pose a risk to human health. Your role will also involve promoting and enhancing sustainability, conservation, and protection by creating or encouraging environmentally friendly initiatives.
Like most chemists, being an environmentalist is a very practical job and your role will probably involve taking samples on the ground and analytical testings, particularly in the situation of a environmental crisis like an oil spill or aquifer contamination.
However, you will also keep up to speed with, and analyse, health and safety regulations, and local or national government laws. Most significantly, environmental chemists work at the intersection of a variety of sciences such as biology, geology, ecology, sedimentology, mineralogy, genetics, soil and water chemistry, hydrology, toxicology, mathematics, and engineering.
Almost all environmental chemists and technicians are employed by national or local governments, or by private consulting companies. According to the ABS (2016), the average salary for an environmental scientist in Australia is $80,014 for men and $66,839 for women per year.
One thing’s for sure, the global warming crisis has resulted in a huge demand for chemists specialising in environmental matters, which will surely reflect on their salary in the coming years.
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Become A Toxicologist and Fight Crime
Forensic chemistry and toxicology are often confused, indeed the qualifications necessary for both of these positions are very similar.
Forensic chemists study physical evidence and samples supplied by law enforcement agencies in order assist them in solving crimes. This profession has been glamorised by series like Law & Order, CSI, and Dexter. Consequently, forensics has become a trendy field to study, increasing the competition to get into university courses or get hired after you have graduated.
Conversely, toxicologists will not be short of work anytime soon. Toxicologists analyse the safety and biological impact of drugs, chemicals, agents, and other substances on living organisms. Like environmentalists, this field is interdisciplinary and necessitates that you are comfortable with other sciences such as biology, biochemistry, or organic chemistry.
As a toxicologist, you will also have to keep up to speed with all of the latest regulations regarding the use of chemicals in Australia. Toxicology may not be as glamorous as criminal forensics, however it does still save lives.
Having a stimulating job is only one of the many reasons why you should study chemistry.
According to the ERI Economic Research Institute's Global Salary Calculator, toxicologists in Australia earn an average salary of $101,332. After you graduate, toxicologists can earn an entry level salary an average of $72,072. More advanced toxicologists can earn a senior level salary an average of $125,558.
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Biotechnology: The Intersection Between Chemistry and Biology
If you are interested in both biology and chemistry, you can do both! By specialising in Biotechnology.
Biotechnology is technology that uses living organisms or cells to create products. While the term biotech may sound futuristic, we have actually been using biotech processes for thousands of years. For example, wine and cheese making were precursors to today’s biotech industry.
In recent years, we have realised what processes were behind some of our favourite food and drinks across the world. With time, as alchemy turned into chemistry, biotechnology became a field of its own.
The biotech industry today enables the design and synthesis of new drugs, enhances nutrition, furthers agriculture, and helps to protect the environment. One of the first discoveries of biotechnology was the industrial production of insulin, required to treat millions of people who have diabetes.
According to the ERI Economic Research Institute's Global Salary Calculator, a biotechnologist in Australia can expect an average wage of $115,765 per year. But the wage can range between $81,983 and $143,677 per year.
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Be A Chemical Engineer
A chemical engineer takes chemical reactions that naturally occur in nature or are developed in labs, and converts them so that they can be practically applied to the production of chemicals or compounds in large-scale industries.
Chemical engineers often work in enhancing these processes, by making them more cost or energy efficient, or less damaging to the environment. In recent years, biology and particularly biotechnologies have become increasingly involved in chemical engineering, but the main foundations of the field remain chemistry, maths and physics.
Various sectors work with chemical engineers, including the aerospace, automotive, environmental, and medical companies. With the rising cost of fossil fuels and global warming we have seen in recent decades, chemical engineers have had an increasing role in making polluting industries like fashion or automobile manufacturers more sustainable.
One of the challenges facing chemical engineers in the years to come includes decreasing the amount of atmospheric CO2 to lessen the impact of human activity and its role in global warming. They may also need to explore new, non-polluting, and renewable fuels.
Another big problem chemical engineers have to tackle is the accumulation of decades of non-recycled plastics, polluting our oceans, making its way into our food, and ultimately harming us. Chemical engineers, who created the plastic boom after WWII, will need to explore new ways to recycle and reuse plastics. Some recent innovations that could help save our planet include turning plastics into fabrics or construction materials, and developing plastic-eating bacteria.
Chemical engineers come from a range of backgrounds, but they typically have a biochemistry degree.
According to Seek, the most common salary for chemical engineers in Australia is $70,000, with a range between $65,000 and $75,000.
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What To Do After A Bachelor Degree In Chemistry?
Once you have obtained your Bachelor certificate as an undergraduate, it does not necessarily mean that your studies are over. Conversely, many chemistry graduates decide to pursue further education and begin a Master degree. This could be followed by a Doctorate science degree, depending on your career goals.
If you choose to undertake a PhD, increasing your knowledge and skills in one of the branches studied during your degree (organic, inorganic, physical or analytical chemistry), you might end up dedicating your career to research or academia.
But chemistry also includes many other fields, particularly in applied chemistry areas like physical chemistry, computational biochemistry, nanotechnology, forensic examination, or biomolecular chemistry. Employers are likely to value such a specialised qualification and will remunerate graduates accordingly.
It doesn’t matter which chemistry course you choose for your undergraduate majors and postgraduate program of study, once you have achieved your degree, you will be able to decide whatever career path you desire: advising multination chemical companies on how to protect the environment, pursuing independent research, or heading a university department.
Are you worried about climate change and environmental decimation? Discover how as a chemistry graduate you can use your degree to improve these issues and more...